When The Culture Changes Too Much

by Thomas Neuburger | Jul 12, 2023

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
Genesis, Chapter 6

We have strict statutes and most biting laws,
The needful bits and curbs to headstrong weeds,
Which for this fourteen years we have let slip…
And liberty plucks justice by the nose,
The baby beats the nurse

—Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

Once established, culture has a life of its own
—Encyclopedia Brittanica

When is too much too much? When is a clock or motor beyond repair? When is a garden past weeding and must be dug up? When has a relationship fallen to such a state that only its death brings life?

These are hard questions. The answer for one of us is no answer for all. Yet everything that deteriorates reaches a point — call it entropy, if you will — that no amount of correction, no added energy, can make the thing fresh, can make the clock run again.

Just as relationships sometimes approach that point, romantic and partnering bonds, so do the larger relationships of our lives. By that I mean the state as well as the State.

A Toxic Culture Destroyed the Roman Republic

An example: The Roman Republic was established after the overthrow of kings in 500 BC or so. The culture, the way people lived, didn’t change, but the distribution of state powers did.

In order to replace the leadership of the kings, a new office was created with the title of consul. Initially, the consuls possessed all of the king’s powers in the form of two men, elected for a one-year term, who could veto each other’s actions. Later, the consuls’ powers were broken down further by adding other magistrates that each held a small portion of the king’s original powers. First among these was the praetor, which removed the consuls’ judicial authority from them. Next came the censor, which stripped from the consuls the power to conduct the census.

This situation, this culture, lasted several centuries, changing with time, but not so much as to be unrecognizable. But there came a point when the structures of the Republic, convoluted at best, with many layers of empowerment and veto, began to be gamed by political participants, gamed to the point where, though the forms remained, what happened under those forms destroyed the state.

Once the Republic reached that point in its culture, once the poisonous practices were embraced by all, there was no going back. Only a strong man could fix things. The only question was who. Marius? Sulla? Pompey? Julius Caesar? It took decades of civil war before Augustus won out.

(All this is beautifully detailed by the Garrett Fagan in his Great Courses series, History of Ancient Rome. Start with Lecture 8, “The Struggle of the Orders,” then skip to the lectures that start with number 17, “Governing the Roman Republic, Part 1.” It’s a fascinating, relevant tale.)

Wikipedia gets it right here:

A core cause of the Republic’s eventual demise was the loss of elite’s cohesion from c. 133 BC [the first of the Gracchi years]: the ancient sources called this moral decay from wealth and the hubris of Rome’s domination of the Mediterranean. Modern sources have proposed multiple causes of elite decohesion, including wealth inequality and a growing unwillingness by aristocrats to transgress political norms, especially in the aftermath of the Social War.

“Wealth inequality.” It started with land reform and went downhill from there.

Not Left vs. Right – Top vs. Those Below

Lest you think this is an anti-Trump cri de coeur, I want to point to a different likely perp, those that started it all — the very rich who own both political parties. As I recently wrote:

What the State protects instead is a “way of life.” It maintains an empire that maintains a way of life among our people sufficient only to keep our rulers in power, and not much more. The goal is maintaining the extravagant way of living the too-rich enjoy. The standard of life allowed to us citizens, is a byproduct only of their desires for themselves.


If we’re kept too happy, they’re wasting their money on us. Thus the constant push for “austerity” — ours, not theirs. If we’re kept too unhappy, maybe we’ll actually rise up.


Thus what we see in our lives, why we get what we get.

It’s true that Trumpian Republicans, aided by a politically corrupted Court (their financial corruption is no worse than that of their peers), are putting an ominous twist on the road to election.

But it’s also true that a two-tiered justice system has already been established and confirmed by both political parties, a system where no one in good standing with the State, public or private, Republican or Democrat, can be convicted of a substantial crime.

George Bush can’t be convicted of war crimes in the U.S. Nor can Henry Kissinger. Obama can’t be convicted of extra-judicial murder of innocent Americans. Bankers can’t be charged for systemically defrauding and crashing the world economy. No one in Establishment favor can be charged with abetting foreign subversion of U.S. elections. Will it ever be possible to restore the Fourth Amendment, or is that too gone for good?

Liberty plucks justice by the nose. The baby beats the nurse.

The question is not where we are. We know where we are. The question is what happens next? Can we turn the ourselves back from the brink? Or have we gone too far? Has our culture a life of its own?

Let’s look at some data points.

Richard Wolff on ‘Consumerism, Fetishism, and the Opiate of the Masses’

In the interview below, Prof. Richard Wolff speaks with Richard Eskow of The Zero Hour, on the ills of our greed-driven consumerism. (Click the link below to open a player. Video version here.)

Richard Wolff and RJ Eskow: Consumerism, Fetishism, and the Opiate of the Masses (mp3)

Consumerism as a culture is promoted because the rich get richer because of it. And as we all know, our rich aren’t rich enough yet; if they were they’d stop.

Note near the middle that Eskow talks about debt as an “escape valve” and the “enslaving mechanism.” How do we get the rich to become more poor? Like the Roman Senate, they might commit murder to stop us.

‘A Corporate Magna Carta’

The following interview explains the next phase of the corporate coup, the corporate takeover of governments around the world. In it, one of the authors of a new book, Silent Coup: How Corporations Overthrew Democracy, discusses this undiscussed movement, “undiscussed” because the corporate media is owned by those working the coup.)

The subject of the book is the World Bank’s investor-state dispute settlement system, an actual court where nations must defend against aggrieved corporations. This is in addition to corporate capture the old-fashioned way, by bribery and direct intervention in who gets to rule. (Click the link below to open a player.)

Claire Provost and Matt Kennard, “Silent Coup” on New Books Network (mp3)

From early in the interview, Provost says this:

Everything from environmental regulations to tax bills the companies don’t want to pay are the subject of these cases. It’s a very advantageous system for foreign investors. It allows them to bypass national courts and challenge states directly. States on the other side can really only lose — settle, change policies — or walk away with the status quo if they win. [But] they still have to pay many millions to mount [their] defense.

She calls this movement, quoting Time magazine, “a corporate Magna Carta.”

I don’t know how to turn this all back. Do you? What would happen in America the first time a connected banker went to jail for systemic fraud? The last chance was Obama in 2009. The fact that he didn’t prosecute made future prosecution impossible. The president who tried would be savaged by everyone, including his own party’s leaders, Schumer and Jeffries. They’d rip him to shreds to save the donor class.

In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself in a dark and tangled wood,
The straight path totally lost.

Are we, like Dante, lost in our own dark wood, with Hell the only way back? Has Pandora’s Box been opened? No way to be sure, but it keeps me up at night.

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